As Oriole Park at Camden Yards celebrates its 20th opening day, a player who has walked the orange carpet for the last nine openers is not on the field.
Brian Roberts is with the team, took some ground balls on the field, but will begin the season on the 15-disabled list as he continues to recover from a concussion. It's a place he's never been on opening day, but considering Roberts spent most of last season unable to even be at a ballpark, just being at the Yard around the Orioles helps in the recovery process.
"Last year was probably the hardest year I've ever had because I wasn't here. I wasn't even able to be around the guys or be at Camden Yards," Roberts said. "Even if you're not playing, you still want to be a part of it. I was kind of separated down in Sarasota, and that was really hard, so to be back here today and be part of the team - I know I'm not contributing on the field, it's nice to just be part of the group and be a part of the guys."
Robert's health is an underlying topic around the ballpark. Nolan Reimod gets the nod leading off for the Birds as they open the season, but before the home opener Buck Showalter said there'd be some "moving chairs" in that role early on. There's no question a healthy Roberts would bring some much needed stability to the top of the order.
Before the opener, Roberts took batting practice, fielded ground balls and ran the bases. The 34-year-old says he feels positive about his return. It's a new sense of optimism that wasn't so present a few weeks ago.
"A couple of weeks ago, I was still struggling at times, and now I'm having really good days. I look forward to really believing that I'm going to be back on the field soon. It's been a long journey, a long road, but the positives are outweighing the negatives a lot more now," Roberts said.
Showalter said he has a few dates in the back of his mind for Roberts' return but is going to let Roberts decide when he's ready.
"I think we all know what it would mean to our club if he could come back and play like Brian's capable. I don't walk by him every day and say, 'How are you feeling? What do you want to do next?' That's just not productive to him getting where he wants to get or where we want him to get. I trust him. He'll tell us. The doctors will tell us. It'll be very easy to sit out there and watch him running around and doing the things he's doing." Showalter said.